Proposals offering the West Midlands greater freedom to improve its local bus services have been welcomed by the region's transport chiefs.
The Bus Services Bill, which was published this afternoon (Friday May 20), would devolve a variety of powers to English regions, enabling them to better plan and manage bus networks.
Powers range from the ability to take direct control of local networks by franchising services to forging strong collaborations with private bus companies in order to drive up standards for passengers.
The measures, including full bus franchising powers, would initially be handed only to elected mayors in those regions that have a combined authority which will include the West Midlands from April 2017 onwards.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (ITA), said: "These proposals to devolve more powers to our region would give us a range of effective tools and methods for improving bus services as part of a fully integrated transport network.
"One of the significant benefits we see in this bill is the ability to further strengthen our existing partnerships with local bus companies to give passengers simplified fares and make sure all our communities benefit from frequent and reliable services.
"We believe the range of options contained in this proposed legislation can help make sure we have convenient, comfortable and affordable bus travel.
"That will give people a real and attractive alternative to using their cars, helping to cut the congestion and pollution damaging our local economy and environment."
Other measures contained in the bill include:
The West Midlands is already considered to be at the forefront of partnership working with private bus companies for the benefit of passengers.
Last November the ITA launched its ground-breaking Bus Alliance partnership agreement which will see private bus operators invest more than £150m over the next five years on new, low polluting buses and other improvements, including smart ticketing technology.
Every bus company in the West Midlands has joined the Alliance which is the first partnership of its kind in the UK.
It builds on previous partnership agreements between Centro, the ITA's delivery arm, and bus companies, including the region's biggest operator National Express West Midlands, which has seen tens of millions of pounds of new buses, shelters, real time information and the Swift smartcard delivered over recent years.
Bus services were deregulated in the West Midlands and other regions 30 years ago. Deregulation was not applied in Greater London however, where franchising of routes was introduced instead.